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Abraham Lincoln

Kwaku Person-Lynn | , Ph.D. | 2/18/2009, 5 p.m.

When President Barack Obama continuously mentioned Abraham Lincoln during his campaign, using the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop for part of the inaugural ceremonies, it became very difficult to figure out why. The only rationale that seemed conceivable was, they are both homeboys from Illinois, and the Lincoln Memorial was an ideal location for the inaugural concert.

We know that President Obama is an extremely intelligent individual, although in a recent speech in Washington D.C. celebrating Lincoln's birthday, he stated, "As we mark the bicentennial of our 16th president's birth, I cannot claim to know as much about his life and works as many of those who are also speaking today, but I can say that I feel a special gratitude to this singular figure who in so many ways made my own story possible--and who in so many ways made America's story possible."

He had to be aware of Lincoln's dislike of Black people. Even his celebrated document, the Emancipation Proclamation, did not free enslaved Afrikans. That did not occur until passage of the 13th Amendment, 18 December 1865.

Prior to authoring the document, Lincoln made his position on slavery very clear. "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." (First Inaugural Address: March 4,1861.)

Probably the most striking speech Lincoln ever gave to express his true feelings about people of Afrikan descent was given during a presidential State of The Union speech, and was the defining statement on race during that period.

"I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which will ever forbid the two races living together in terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior. I am as much as any other man in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race." (Speech at Columbus, Ohio: Sept. 16, 1859.)
In fact, the Proclamation deliberately stated that some enslaved Afrikans should not be freed, and spelled out those areas where freedom should not occur. "...the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia, and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued."

Lincoln's use of the 'N' word in public speeches was profuse. If he had his way, there would not have been any people of Afrikan descent in the United States. He wanted to deport all Afrikans back to Afrika. He fought for this plan but the finances, resources and wherewithal were just not available.